Please excuse me if I’m a little pensive today.
Mark is leaving, and I’m feeling kind of sad.
You probably don’t know Mark, but you might be lucky enough to know someone just like him. He’s been the heart and soul of the office for a couple of years, combining exemplary professional skills with a sweet nature and gentle disposition. He’s never been all that interested in getting credit for the terrific work he does. He just wants to do his job, and to do it superbly well.
And now he’s moving on to an exciting new professional opportunity. It sounds like it could be the chance of a lifetime, and we’re genuinely, sincerely pleased for him. But that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to a dear friend and trusted colleague.
Life has a way of throwing these curve balls at us. Just when we start to get comfortable with a person, a place or a situation, something comes along to alter the recipe. A terrific neighbor moves away. Someone in the family graduates. A child finds new love and loyalties through marriage. The family’s principle bread-winner is laid off.
Our ability to cope with change and disruption determines, to a great degree, our peace, happiness and contentment in life.
But how do we do that? Philosophers have considered the question for centuries, and their responses have been varied. According to the author of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, comfort can be found in remembering that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Kahlil Gibran urged his listeners to “let today embrace the past with remembrance, and the future with longing.”
A friend of mine who works for the government is fond of reminding his fellow bureaucrats that “survivability depends upon adaptability.” And then there’s Chris, the California surf-rat, who once told me that the answer to life’s problems can be summed up in four words: “Go with the flow.”
“It’s like surfing,” Chris explained. “You can’t organize the ocean. Waves just happen. You ride ’em where they take you, then you paddle back out there and catch the next one. Sure, you’re always hoping for the perfect wave where you can get, like, you know, totally tubular. But mostly you just take ’em the way they come. It’s not like you’re trying to nail Jell-O to a tree, you know?”
I’m not exactly sure, but I think Chris was saying that life is a series of events — both good and bad. No matter how deft your organizational skills, there will always be life-influencing factors over which you have no control. The truly successful person expects the unexpected, and is prepared to make adjustments should the need arise — as it almost always does.
That doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying to make all your dreams come true. It just means that when things come up that aren’t exactly in your plan, you work around them — and then you move on. Of course, some bumps along the road of life are easier to take than others. A rained-out picnic, for example, is easier to cope with than the sudden death of a loved one. But the principle is the same.
“Change, indeed, is painful, yet ever needful,” said philosopher Thomas Carlyle. “And if memory have its force and worth, so also has hope.”
We’re going to miss Mark, just like you’ll miss that graduate, that neighbor or that newlywed. But rather than dwell on the sadness of our parting, we’ll focus on our hopes for a brighter future — for him, and for us. And then we’ll go out and do everything we can to make that future happen.
Until our plans change — again.